Speech Language Pathology in the Age of Apps



It seems that every day our newsfeeds and e-mail inboxes are inundated with a new crop of apps, developed to enhance our everyday lives, either through convenience, innovation, or pure entertainment. It ranges anywhere from apps that monitor diabetes to pseudo-matchmaker apps like Tinder. The horizon is boundless for these self-contained programs, their influence stemming from affordability, ease-of-use, and mobility. It is for these very reasons why they can be very powerful and engaging teaching tools for individuals with severe speech or language problems Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) and speech therapy in general.

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) has endorsed the use of apps and mobile devices in educational settings, citing that apps have the capacity to save time and cut costs, effectively monitor progress, improve communication between teachers and parents, and be highly adaptable to patients with varying needs. And the best part: these practical solutions are packaged in colorful, engaging interfaces that kids love. Websites like AppsforAAC.net have taken on the task of cataloging and even comparing these apps side-by-side; the website currently boasts “265 apps listed in total, 55 of which are free. A simple search for “AAC app” on AppCrawlr yields 85 results, all equipped with product reviews and rankings. If numbered lists (a la Buzzfeed) are more your style, then Friendship Circle has compiled 7 Assistive Communications Apps in the iPad App Store and About.com's Top 10 AAC Apps for iPad. Still more, sites like Smart Apps for Special Needs provide daily updates on new, free (and not free) apps.

While these resources are by no means comprehensive, the message is simple. The work that SLPs undertake is difficult, and at times frustrating for all parties involved. In CLASP’s previous trips to Zambia, therapists have confronted the obstacles of what it is like to enter a situation where there are no teaching tools available; simple binders filled with pictures were created, called core boards, to facilitate lessons. This goes to show the usefulness of how even the simplest of visual aids can engage special needs children in therapy. We are fortunate enough to have access to technology, and specifically mobile applications, that can offer assistance in new, innovative ways. If you have any recommendations, feel free to let us know in the comments section below!

If you’re interested in the work we do with certified SLPs in Zambia, click here.